Roman era blood sports – or at least a mock dramatization thereof – will return to an ancient arena in the southern province of Antalya tomorrow thanks to an initiative to stage gladiator fights for tourists.
“The performances will start at 9 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays,” Mehmet Bıcıoğlu, a consultant for the Aspendos Gladiator Arena, recently told Anatolia news agency. “Performed by a group of 80 people, the gladiator fights will be accompanied by Gregorian music, and dance performances will also be presented.”
Gladiator fights were typically staged between slaves, or slaves and ferocious animals, as a form of entertainment in the Roman era. The dramatized fights in Aspendos will be presented with hand-made clothes and weapons before audiences of up to 800 people, Bıcıoğlu said, adding that the arena for the battles has been completed.
Bıcıoğlu said his group would be presenting a type of event that has never been seen in modern Turkey. “I think our organization [will] contribute greatly to cultural tourism in Antalya,” he said.
The group is planning to perform until the end of November, Bıcıoğlu said, adding that tickets for the first performance tomorrow will cost 25 Turkish Liras.
The 12 performers who are set to portray gladiators have been engaged in rigorous training ahead of the first performance, while organizers are working to make the hand-made clothes and weapons, as wells as the sword fights and execution scenes, resemble the original spectacle as closely as possible.
The performers who will act in the swordfight scenes are also training hard to ensure they will not harm each other.
“Our practices are going very well; we would like to see many spectators here,” said İbrahim Caner, one of the gladiators.
This one’s a bit confusing; Aspendos does have one of the best preserved theatres in the area but (as the Wikipedia article on Aspendos notes) it hasn’t been used for performances for a while. They did build something called the ‘Aspendos Arena’ nearby … can we assume that’s where the fighting will take place? I’m still trying to wrap my head around gladiators fighting to ‘Gregorian music’, but it probably doesn’t mean what I think it is.